One of my favorite aspects of my job is getting to know and learn from the families who have been blessed by the generous giving of donors and received grants to bring their children home. In many cases, these conversations happen on a computer screen, but it is even more special when God allows us to do life together. That is the case with my pastor, Jason Egly, and his family, who brought home two daughters from Ethiopia with the help of a Show Hope grant. I am incredibly thankful for their friendship and example and thrilled that Jason is sharing with us in the post below. - Jaimee Marks
“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago.” Luke 1:68-70 NLT.
I have been studying Scripture and preparing sermons for several years now and one of the reasons why I am so passionate about it is because God continues to show me things I have never realized before … even in familiar passages. One such example was a few weeks ago, on the second Sunday of Advent.
I was preparing to teach Luke 1:67-79. In this passage, Zechariah gives a beautiful song of praise to God after the birth of his son John. After 400 years of prophetic silence, God had broken through with the birth of John the Baptist who would prepare the way for the coming Messiah. In his song, Zechariah uses five synonymous words or phrases to describe how God has acted on behalf of His people: He has visited us (v. 68); He has redeemed us (v. 68); He has sent us a mighty Savior (v. 69); He has saved us from our enemies (v. 70); He has remembered His covenant (v. 72); and He has rescued us (v.74).
As I identified these, the one that really seemed odd to me was, “He has visited us.” How is visiting on the same level with redeeming or saving or rescuing us? If I had been writing this, I thought, I am sure I could have come up with a better phrase than “He has visited us.” But seeing how my words are not inerrant and Luke’s are, I decided to dig a little deeper.
The word visit is translated from the Greek word episkeptomai, which means to inspect, examine, or look around; most often in order to help or benefit the poor, afflicted or sick. Ahhhh … now this is beginning to get intriguing. The light bulb in my head is showing signs of a flicker.
Because it had just happened recently, my mind flashed to the image of President Obama paying a visit to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. When a President visits an area that is afflicted by some sort of natural disaster, it is not for the purpose tourism or sightseeing, (and hopefully also not for political maneuvering.) It is to comfort those who are hurting and to promise them that help has arrived, backed by the full resources of the government.
And now the light bulb is burning full blast.
I remembered that James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (ESV, emphasis added.)
I have always struggled with this verse because to simply just visit an orphan or a widow in their affliction doesn’t seem like nearly enough. As an adoptive parent, to have simply just visited my little girls while they were in their orphanage in Ethiopia would have seemed pointless. An insult, even. I wanted to bring them home! Immediately!
But what if the James 1:27 visit was the Luke 1:68 kind of visit? Could it be? Surely not. That would be too easy. I looked up the verse in my lexicon and … unbelievable (oh, me of little faith) … there it was, as clear as day: Episkeptomai.
How could I, a pastor, a (wannabe) Greek scholar, adoptive parent, and orphan advocate have missed this?!
Now it makes so much sense! This is why orphan care (and widow care, don’t forget) is so important for the church! Because it is exactly what God did for us. He visited us. And so much more…
When God sent his Mighty Savior Jesus into the world as the Envoy of the Kingdom of Heaven, it was to visit us while we were afflicted by the disastrous consequences of sin, and it was for the purpose of comforting us and promising us that help has arrived, backed by the full resources of the Kingdom. He didn’t just come and look around and give us a few nice suggestions about how to pull ourselves up out of our disaster. He came to redeem, save, and rescue us. And he didn’t just visit … He stayed. And he gave His life — the most valuable resource of the Kingdom of Heaven — for us, orphans of the hurricane of sin. And He adopted us into the family of God. Forever.
This Christmas, I was (and continue to be) thankful more than ever to God for sending His Son to visit us. I am also thankful to Show Hope sponsors and donors, who not only helped my family visit two little orphan girls in Ethiopia, but to bring them home, give them a forever family, and introduce them to the One who gave His life for them.
-Jason Egly, pastor at Ekklesia Nashville